This is going to date me, but I still think the coolest paranormal investigator of all time is Carl Kolchak. For quick thinking, wit, and chutzpah, you’re not going to do any better than Darren McGavin. Give me a wisecracking cynic with no superpowers over brooding bores from beyond like John Constantine and Dylan Dog, any ol’ time. (Note: I’m referring to the cinematic characters. No knock on the graphic novel originals, whom I’m certain are fine fellows, indeed.) It’s a wide-open field: I can’t point to a successful paranormal investigation franchise at the moment. X-Files had a good run. And you can’t go wrong with Ghostbusters. But I seriously doubt that Brandon Routh’s watery portrayal of Dylan Dog will inspire a sequel, much less the devotion afforded a true genre icon like, say, Scooby Doo, who is an actual dog, if you’re keeping score.

Dylan Dog is a mildly superpowered human who serves as kind of a paranormal peacekeeper between vampires, zombies, werewolves and other assorted boogiemen. That is, until his beloved wife is murdered by vampires, which inspires an episode of vigilante justice. After that, he becomes a private eye, restricting his investigations to cheating spouses and insurance fraud. But it’s a small world and Dylan’s demonic past catches up with him, and, to paraphrase Al Pacino, they drag him back in.

The plot, a search for an artifact that will resurrect the demon Belial, is half-baked at best; as a McGuffin it’s pretty weak tea. And former Superman washout Brandon Routh is badly miscast (as an actor). The whole hard-boiled gumshoe guise never fits, the guy is just too bland and featureless. Seriously, after a while, I thought I was watching Grand Theft Auto—or a Macy’s commercial. Sam Worthington, who’s gone on to bigger things (like Avatar), tries hard to pick up the slack as Dylan’s deceased sidekick/comedy relief Marcus, but he ain’t got the chops. Lots of opportunities for gruesome black humor, and most of them are squandered.

It’s the bit players who deliver the best performances. Peter Stormare is pitch-perfect as crime boss/werewolf Gabriel. It makes my heart burst into song when a proper actor can make a smallish part blossom, and Stormare is up to the task. Taye Diggs is charismatic and devious as a vampire trying to move his way up the crime-family ranks, and Anita Briem is reasonably convincing as the frosty ass-kicking chick with questionable ethics. Sadly, they can’t compensate for Brandon Routh in the title role. How bad is he? Let’s put it this way: he makes Keanu Reeves look like DeNiro. Good news for Keanu, I suppose, but not for anyone in search of a memorable character.

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